Invisible wounds: obstetric violence in the United States

Reprod Health Matters. 2016 May;24(47):56-64. doi: 10.1016/j.rhm.2016.04.004. Epub 2016 Jun 1.


In recent years, there has been growing public attention to a problem many US health institutions and providers disclaim: bullying and coercion of pregnant women during birth by health care personnel, known as obstetric violence. Through a series of real case studies, this article provides a legal practitioner's perspective on a systemic problem of institutionalized gender-based violence with only individual tort litigation as an avenue for redress, and even that largely out of reach for women. It provides an overview of the limitations of the civil justice system in addressing obstetric violence, and compares alternatives from Latin American jurisdictions. Finally, the article posits policy solutions for the legal system and health care systems.

Keywords: United States; disrespect and abuse in childbirth; mistreatment in childbirth; obstetric violence; respectful maternity care.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cesarean Section*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women*
  • Treatment Refusal
  • United States
  • Violence*
  • Women's Rights*